Report names Mid Sussex as social mobility ‘hotspot’

Nicholas Soames MP
Nicholas Soames MP

Poorer children in Mid Sussex have a better chance of making progress in life than anywhere else in the county, according to a new report.

The government’s Social Mobility Commission (SMC) published its State of the Nation 2017 last week, which examined the life chances of people born into a disadvantaged background.

The report focussed on four categories – early years, schools, youth and adulthood. Mid Sussex was listed among the 65 ‘hotspots’ for the latter – the only area in the county to make any of the top ranks.

In the overall ratings, Mid Sussex placed 75th out of 324 local authority areas in England. This compared to Horsham, 109th, and Worthing, 139th.

Chichester, Arun and Crawley were all listed among the country’s ‘coldspots’.

Mid Sussex MP Sir Nicholas Soames said he was not surprised by the findings about his constituency, which he described as one of the most “extraordinarily successful” areas in the county.

He added: “It is also a very aspirational area and I think the combination of ambition and one or two very good schools, terrific job opportunities locally and a lot of young people who go to university and have a real desire to get on, is accomplished in Mid Sussex life.

“We have a very good district council who have done a great deal to encourage enterprise and aspiration and is very ambitious for its towns and its people.

“I think it’s a great environment to grow up and there are a lot of aspirational people who want their children to get on in life – and good for them, I say.”

His joy wasn’t shared elsewhere. Councillor Peter Lamb, leader of Crawley Borough Council said the report was a “call to action” for his town, adding: “It is totally unacceptable that in modern Britain, the success of Crawley’s children is determined by their parents’ income.”

Mr Lamb said he had called for an “urgent meeting” with West Sussex County Council “to see what steps they plan to take to correct this failure”.

In addition he asked the chair of Crawley’s overview and scrutiny commission, Councillor Brenda Smith, to begin an investigation into social mobility in the borough and “the practical steps which are now necessary to ensure every child has a fair chance in life”.

A county council spokesman for West Sussex County said the results of the SMC’s study were “concerning”.

He added: “In the last few years we have worked hard to develop the support we offer our families and our new early help service tackles families’ problems before they become more serious.

“This has been a success and hopefully this will show a shift in social mobility in the years ahead.

“School funding is also a key issue for us and we have been consistently calling for fairer funding for our schools by working with our MPs and head teachers over the last couple of years.

“Funding could be considered a factor, however, we need to continue working with our district and borough councils to develop effective improvement plans to tackle social mobility.

“We are already working to develop improvements for our disadvantaged pupils.

“We will be looking at the report in more detail to come up with the best way forward.”